At the beginning of the year, the City of Toronto started pondering the potential of car-free future for one of its busiest downtown streets.
The King Street Pilot Project, as presented by chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, would put “transit first” and improve the flow of streetcar traffic. The initial plan didn’t mention how or if private vehicles would factor into the vision.
Further details of the project were released in May. King Street would be redesigned as a local access only street by forcing drivers to turn right at the end of every block. The reconfiguration would stretch from Jarvis Street in the east to Bathurst Street in the west.
While this could fix King Street’s current “dysfunctional” state, as Mayor John Tory put it, adjacent streets will have to bear the burden of 20,000 re-routed daily drivers. That includes taxis, which account for around a quarter of all traffic on King Street between 7 am and 7 pm.
Speaking at the mayor’s executive committee on Monday, Toronto Taxi Alliance spokesman Sam Moini argued cabs should be exempt from the road restrictions of the pilot project, pointing to the important role cabs play in Toronto’s transit ecosystem.
“We would like to be treated like the TTC in regards to this pilot project,” said Moini on behalf of Toronto’s major taxi associations.
“The sole purpose of a taxi cab is to transport the public around the city in a safe and reliable way.”
Beck Taxi operations manager Kristine Hubbard threw the TTC some shade in her statements to the committee on the matter.
“I do think we are part of the public transit system. I’ve always said that. Whenever the subway or streetcar or whatever goes down, we are getting the troops together to head down and help move people,” Hubbard said.
Despite Keesmaat’s objection to special treatment for cabs, stating bluntly that “taxis are not public transit,” mayor Tory requested that city staff consult the cab industry and consider lifting the right turn restrictions – a motion that largely undermines the purpose of the project.
The King Street Pilot Project comes at a cost of $1.5 million and will run for one year starting this fall if approved by city council. A final decision will be made next month.